Here are some kind words we've received on the miraculous work that continues every day at the St. James Clinic, The Common Ground, and The Odyssey House
Thank you to St. James! My personal thank you is to Dr. Chuck Cloninger for how he has helped ease the pain in my life. I suffer from chronic bladder infections and have seen an extensive number of physicians about this problem with very little offer of relief other than regular antibiotics when the infections occur. Most of the time this isn't such a big deal, but the infections often occur when I'm on vacation or have been suffering from a lot of previous stress. If this happens, I have neither a regular medical provider at my access or insurance that will cover me out of state. The combination of these two factors can be both expensive and extremely inconvenient while vacationing. However, thanks to Dr. Chuck, who has given me his phone# to call him any time when these emergencies arise, I am able to get fast effective relief. Dr. Chuck just calls in a prescription for me and I am soon able to enjoy my vacations with much more ease and less pain.
Thank you Dr. Chuck and thank you St. James for being their for me when I need you most.
When I first sat in the lobby of St. James Infirmary, in 1999, a girl in the lobby was congratulating another transgender girl for her recent successes with transitions in her gender. I knew I was in the right lobby and CLINIC.
I had a harm reduction session with Alex Lutnick, and for the first time was able to disclose risk factors I had due to BDSM play. For the first time I was able to discuss possible risks that myself, and my partners, as queer people who are biologically female, could have had. In the past, many STD counselors told me the sex I was having posed no STD threats. I knew the counselors I had seen in the past were ignorant, but, ST. James is the first clinic that had a broad awareness of cultural, sexual, and professional risks for STDs.
After receiving services through St. James for around 2 years, I signed up as a massage volunteer. It was exciting and fulfilling to offer holistic medicine to many community members at St. James. It also made me experience how empowering a peer based community clinic feels! I was a health care provider. I was being healed and treated by people in my community. Many unnecessary provider/receiver divisions that are typical in the health-care setting were re-viewed, and redefined at St. James Infirmary. If the community members and people working the clinic were uncomfortable with a provider/receiver dynamic it would not occur. But if both sides were comfortable, it happened. That is a client-centered structure that felt incredibly empowering and effective to me.
In 2001, I stopped being a holistic provider due to tendonitis. But I've continued to get acupuncture, reiki, and medical care through this clinic. In fact St. James has been a large part in my healing process with tendonitis.
As an older trans man who did not begin taking testosterone until I was in my thirties, I found many options for younger trans men that exist in San Francisco were unavailable to me. I received intelligent transgender care through Chuck Klausner and Deb Cohan that are a great factor in my positive identity as a transman. Several times, I have been homeless, and respectful care during times I was in a housing crisis felt grounding and gave me the ability to take care of my basic needs.
I've returned to St. James in 2005, as a harm reduction counselor, peer counselor, intake counselor, and phlebotomist! It was St. James that helped me find the Aids Health Project to become a counselor. And it is St. James that has allowed me to work in a community clinic that provides care to people that are in my community. It is also St. James Infirmary who have trained and assisted me in becoming a peer and intake counselor.
Health care workers that more relate and understand the community they provide services to, do the best work! For me, and me for the other community members this clinic is an incredible holistic, medical, and community resource.
I came to St. James about a month after the clinic opened. I'd been doing sex work for about 6 months and was starving for community. I went through the intake process and to this day I remember the feeling I got when the counselor asked me how many sex partners I'd had in the past 6 months. It was clear that I could have said 1000 and wouldn't have been judged. That night I got the best HIV counseling I've ever had from someone who'd been in the industry. It was transformative. As I was leaving the clinic I asked [the co-founder] whether I could volunteer the following week. She said "Of course!" That's the sort of openness and love that makes St. James a community where I remain involved, 7 years later.
Once I was giving a transgender woman a massage. I reached a point on her back where she froze up and screamed. I asked her what was happening and she said that her father had beaten her back with a two by four. She told me all about how she slept on the sidewalk, how she spent her days walking the streets. In that moment, it was a remarkable privilege to be entrusted with her tears. The nonjudgmental space that St. James provides is crucial for people who need sensitive health care.
There is a younger generation of sex workers coming through St. James Infirmary and going into the areas of health care and social work. St. James gives them a point of entry. The clinic isn't just providing food and medical care to sex workers. It provides a host of entry-level opportunities for sex workers who want to do healing work in other fields. Many staff members at St. James are in grad school, training to become phlebotomists, thinking about nursing school or taking leadership roles at the clinic. It's an incubator for the next generation of activists.
A woman I saw in a peer counseling session started crying before we even sat down. She spent an hour telling me about her abusive childhood, her drug use, her estranged family, a recent rape. She'd never told anyone about any of it because she was raised in a traditional Chinese household. Over and over she said how grateful she was that she wasn't being judged. Her heavy makeup was running down her neck and onto her chest. I've never seen anyone cry that much. A few weeks later she said she'd started a treatment program. Our clinic was the beginning of a new life for her.
I've been a participant in SJI since the summer of 1999. At the time I was a male escort and had little community and no healthcare. The male support group that I attended then created both a support system for my isolated life, and friendships that have lasted through the years. One night in 2000, I was emotionally overwhelmed after an experience with one of my clients, and because of the support group I had an understanding friend I could call and talk to. The holistic care from SJI with both Western medicine, acupuncture, and Reiki has kept me going when I've had emotional and physical health issues to work through. I started volunteering Reiki at SJI a year or two later, and the experience I gained in seeing numerous clients every week was invaluable to my confidence and growth as a Reiki practitioner. The stipends I received for my Reiki took the pressure off me to depend on sex work as a sole means of support, and gave me the confidence to drop out of sex work when I needed to. Later a work opportunity in SJI's clinic administration helped me again, giving me employment options where I could be honest and myself and empowered without fear of judgment. The last few years I have travelled itinerantly, and I find the most valuable gift of all in SJI: family. I miss folks at SJI when I'm away, and recently SJI was my first stop a few hours after landing from a 10 month stint in Asia. The loving support and friendship of colleagues, participants, and aquaintenances at SJI always amazes and comforts me. Sometimes its someone I've only met once or twice years ago... and they remember me! And other times it's a colleague I've worked with intimately. SJI always gives me a shining welcome and makes me feel at home!
St. James Clinic is the greatest, the staff are friendly and helpful in all my medical needs. My doctor Chuck makes me feel wonderfully like a girl. I would recommend St. James to all the T.G. and even girls to this very understanding and friendly place. I know if I just need to talk there is someone here to talk too.
SJI has an incredible goal/mission. I only wish we had more $ to provide services. Some harm reduction counselors have provided kind words of encouragement when I've been lost and swamped in this [?] concrete jungle we live in. It's survival of the fittest, that's what we do. I am trying to be in the moment.